ANNE GILDEA

Things get heated in hot weather

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - CONTENTS - ANNE GILDEA anne.gildea@mailon­sun­day.ie

Iwas up in Mon­aghan a cou­ple of months ago and peo­ple who sounded like they knew what they were on about were com­ment­ing on crows’ homes. ‘Look, they’ve all built their nests high in the trees,’ they said. That, ap­par­ently, is a crow way of sig­nalling to us hu­mans: ‘Can­cel the fort­night in Santa Ponsa — you’ll be siz­zling your­self to a crisp on your own coast this year.’ In other words, ad­her­ents of the high-nest the­ory were pos­i­tive we were in for a fab­u­lous sum­mer.

I for­got all about that when I got back to my lit­tle Dublin city-cen­tre flat. I just pre­sumed we’d be hav­ing the usual July-Au­gust rainy sea­son, not that there was much ac­tual na­ture in the neigh­bour­hood to read signs from, like, say, the lo­cal rats sur­rep­ti­tiously stock­pil­ing ga­loshes.

Any­way, hur­ray for high nests! Last sum­mer might have been the wettest in our weather his­tory, but even if it’s lash­ing the day you read this, it can­not be de­nied that we’ve had an ex­cel­lent sun in­nings this time round: day af­ter day of the kind of belt­ing sun that re­minds me of child­hood sum­mers above on the bog, sav­ing turf, the dark brown of the banks suck­ing the rays down, the heat of it turn­ing the ground to a scree of peat dust that stuck to your sweat-lath­ered skin like a crust of earthy sea­son­ing, while a deep en­dur­ing tan was baked onto you.

I didn’t need to hear the re­cent news that Bord na Móna lost € 23 mil­lion last year be­cause of the ‘cat­a­strophic’ peat har­vest to know that wet sum­mers have mit­i­gated against the sav­ing of the na­tive fuel. ‘Imag­ine try­ing to foot turf, and the sods flop­ping in your hand,’ a lo­cal farmer com­plained to me the last time I was down in Sligo. Wob­bly turf foot­ings col­laps­ing into flat wig­wams of muck? The im­age was shock­ing (prob­a­bly only if you’re very fa­mil­iar with turf sav­ing, the cut­ting and turn­ing and foot­ing and build­ing into reeks that must mean noth­ing to an ur­ban­ite). It was as if the Ir­ish weather was de­stroy­ing turf tra­di­tion. I can imag­ine the same man’s de­light this per­fect sum­mer, to be back to his back-break­ing turf work — if the EU al­lows.

Think­ing of turf, I’m glad I’m a city dweller now. A stretch of fine days in the coun­try means that one thing: work! I wouldn’t be up to it any more. I’ve grown too — what’s the word? — lazy. Last week I met up with an old school friend, on her way from her home in Am­s­ter­dam to the fam­ily farm in Sligo. She told me her fa­ther had two banks of turf turned by hand al­ready. He’s 85 years of age. Her Dutch chil­dren couldn’t wait to get down to help him — they love the nov­elty of it all. I wouldn’t call it that my­self.

Yet the feel­ing that fine weather is for chores re­mains. Look, the sun’s out — janey, you’d bet­ter use it while it lasts, I au­to­mat­i­cally think. But how? Wash ev­ery­thing and line-dry it in a trice, paint ev­ery­thing, drag all your soft fur­nish­ings into the gar­den, detox them of win­ter­i­ness un­der the ul­tra­vi­o­let glare of un­bro­ken sun, re-do the gar­den while you’re at it? None of that ap­plies to me be­cause I live in a third-floor con­crete shoe­box, oth­er­wise known as a ‘mod­ern Ir­ish apart­ment’. So, what else is left? Vi­ta­min D-pro­duc­ing. That’s been a pop­u­lar sun chore all over the city, I’ve no­ticed: the lolling about in skimpy-wear that it in­volves be­ing a lot more — what’s the word? — nice than farm labour.

Not that it can’t be fraught. The other evening, my sis­ter-in-law, some of her mum chums and kid­dies were catch­ing the fi­nal rays of the day. They were on a South Dublin beach, next to where they live. As the kids splashed about, they were en­joy­ing a G&T each, gar­nished with cu­cum­ber. Close by was a gang of women knock­ing back cider from two-litre bot­tles, tod­dlers and ba­bies in tow. Leav­ing for home, the well-oiled cider-women left be­hind a heap of squashed bot­tles and as­sorted de­bris, in­clud­ing two ran­cid nap­pies. ‘Ex­cuse me,’ one of Tracy’s friends ven­tured. ‘Would you mind tak­ing your rub­bish with you?’ The lit­ter­ing of the lo­cal beach is a con­stant prob­lem in good weather. Sud­denly they were un­der at­tack: ‘This is a f***ing beach, not a cock­tail bar.’ ‘Who the f*** do you think you are, you posh bitches?’ ‘You can stick your f***ing cu­cum­ber.’ And the pièce de ré­sis­tance, to the woman who’d con­fronted the lit­ter louts: ‘And if I were you, I’d do some­thing about my f***ing roots.’

Roots as in hair, not back­ground, though ev­i­dently it was a sense of per­ceived so­cial dif­fer­ence that fu­elled the cider dames’ at­tack. Tracy and her friends nar­rowly es­caped be­ing phys­i­cally as­saulted but af­ter­wards found the pointed in­sults flung at them hi­lar­i­ous: par­tic­u­larly the one about the roots, as the lady the comment had been aimed at had just had them done, very ex­pen­sively.

It’s just a shame the cider-quaf­fers’ wit-tas­tic in­tel­li­gence didn’t make them re­alise that ‘beach’ is not the same as ‘bin’ and that what was po­litely asked of them was rea­son­able. And, ul­ti­mately, it’s a pity that they hadn’t just f***ed off to Santa Ponsa to do their foul-mouthing and lit­ter-lout­ing over there this sum­mer.

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